The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

by - Thursday, April 05, 2012


To read the short story, click on "The Lottery" to be directed to another webpage. 

* This review may contain spoilers, read it at your own risk! *

 "The Lottery'' is considered one of the most haunting and shocking short stories of modern American fiction and is one of the most frequently anthologized. The story takes place on a June morning in the town square of a small village. Amidst laughter and gossip, families draw slips of paper from a ballot box until housewife Tessie Hutchinson receives a slip with a black mark on it. The villagers then stone her to death as a ritual sacrifice despite her protests about the unfairness of the drawing. The impact of this unexpected ending is intensified by Shirley Jackson's detached narrative style, the civility with which the cruelty is carried out by the villagers, and the serene setting in which the story takes place. 
- Excerpt from Enotes : The Lottery

I am really beginning to love my University's literature texts. First by awing me with Lamb to the Slaughter, and now with The Lottery. The Lottery is an annual event that had became a paramount tradition in this particular village. Similar to the Looking For A Rain God short story, The Lottery is about a sacrificial event that was believed to bring good season for corn crops, which is an important food and income source at that era. 

To be honest, I wasn't able to get into the story for the first few times that I tried to read, mainly because I was going in blind. Therefore I would suggest you to read the summary or at least get a rough idea of what the story is about, then the introduction will make much more sense. 

The third time I picked up the story, I knew I was hooked. The Lottery started off with a description of a perfectly serene summer day which later unfolds into a twisted stoning event. The Lottery was a symbolism for misguided belief and the extremity of human's cruelty, and the unfairness of it all. 

In a small village with only 3000 population, when comes June every year, the villagers will gather in the town's square and prepare for The Lottery in which a drawing event will take place. For every family, a representative will be called out to draw a random strip of paper from a worn out black box seated on a three legged stand, and if the paper is blank, it meant that the particular family is saved from the next drawing which will decide who will be the human sacrifice. In the story, the Hutchingson's was the "lucky" ones. 

Having five members in the family, namely Bill the husband, Tessie the wife, and children Nancy, Bill Jr. and toddler little Dave, each of them will once again draw out a random piece of paper from the box. Only in this drawing, whoever who have a black spot on the paper will be the chosen one. I wouldn't reveal who was the "lucky" one but I would like to point out that the story managed to bring me to tears at that point. 

In my opinion, what the author was trying to convey was how fast human could turn their backs on one another:

  • Human's ignorant behavior towards other people's wellbeing. 

Quote : "All right, folks." Mr Summers said. "Let's finish quickly" 

Mr. Summers, the conductor of the event said this during the stoning scene, proving human's disregards for other people even if it involves the situation of life and death.

  • Family and friends are my enemies. 

Excerpt : Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original box, they still remember to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready. there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Ms. Dunbar. "Come on," she said. "Hurry up."

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Dave Hutchinson few pebbles. 

Once again, this short excerpt portrayed human's cruel nature. The villagers could tolerate forgetting the rituals  and the box, but the only thing they don't accept is changing the way they are. Blood must be shed in order for them to have their own release, and even children are included in the "stoning event", thus exposing their fragile mind to bad influence at such a young age. Delacroix and Dunbar was Hutchinson's friend, but Delacroix was wiling to pick up a large stone to help kill a friend. And the worst part of it all was " And someone gave little Dave Hutchinson few pebbles." This part really got to me because I couldn't seem to get over the fact that the people were actually encouraging a young innocent boy to kill his own family member. Which sounded pretty sadistic to me. 

  • Unjust.

The Lottery ended with the plea of the "lucky one" "It isn't isn't right...."

I was really trying to fight off my tears after the story ended, the "lucky ones" suffered from a tragic death that could clearly be avoided. They had in fact, died for nothing, all because of a twisted belief and human's selfishness. 

The Lottery was full of foreshadows, ironies and symbolism, it might not be clearly depicted at first glance, but it is definitely present. Shirley Jackson conveyed such a strong message that it was hard to ignore. 

For more details on the symbolism in the story, visit Slayerment : The Lottery. He described the symbolism perfectly that had my mind trying to connect the dots. The Lottery is worth a read! 

*The Lottery bears a slight similarity to the beginning of the Hunger Games, which made me even more excited to read it. 

(This review is completely and solely from my own opinion and dissection of the story, if you are referring this for a literary assignment, I suggest you to look it up on a more reliable website, but thanks for reading!)

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  1. I just saw this on my blogger feed and got VERY excited. I have always remembered this short story since the first time I read it back in middle school and it has always been a favorite of mine!

    1. I'm sad that I didn't discover this earlier! This has definitely been one of my favorite short stories now, and I am definitely looking forward to read more of Shirley Jackson's works!

  2. My favorite story here is "The Daemon Lover." Herein, Jackson offers one of the most poignant, touching looks at loneliness, desperation, and fragility I have ever read. In the story, we spend a day with the protagonist as she prepares for her wedding, having become engaged just the night before to a James Harris. It is a depressing yet beautiful story, and I actually rate it higher than "The Lottery." The character of James Harris actually flitters throughout several of these stories, a phantom of sorts haunting several of Jackson's more memorable female characters.


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